Apple patents touchscreen technology that reads fingerprints

February 15, 2017 - 

Apple has patented display technology capable of analyzing a user’s fingerprint without a dedicated sensor, a feature rumored to be incorporated in the upcoming iPhone 8 model, according to a report by Apple Insider.

U.S. Patent No. 9,570,002 for an “Interactive display panel with IR diodes” describes a touch display that uses micro-LED sensing technology instead of active matrix hardware, which is used on the majority of mobile devices.

Apple acquired micro-LED displays and associated technology last April from LuxVue, after purchasing the firm for an undisclosed sum in 2014.

micro-LEDs can substitute standard capacitive touch arrays, whereby individual IR emitting and sensing diodes connect to driving and selection circuitry to generate a subpixel circuit.

Thanks to their small size, IR diodes can fit into a display surface alongside RGB LEDs or on a microchip mounted to the display surface.

The subpixel arrangement, labelled as “interactive pixels”, could incorporate red, green, blue, IR emitting and IR sensing LEDs (RGBIRSIR), along with other colors, in a high resolution panel.

In some embodiments, the system can be configured to conduct a range of operations based on sensing component input.

The IP was reassigned to Apple in April 2016 from LuxVue, the small firm providing micro-LED displays and associated technology that Apple acquired in 2014.

With this technology, Apple is able to completely replace larger capacitive sensor parts with small infrared light emitters and sensors as well as incorporate touch panels and fingerprint sensors using similar hardware.

The patent’s details appear to support rumors that the iPhone 8 will feature a full-face display with an “invisible” home button and Touch ID sensor.

The company’s current fingerprint sensing technology requires a capacitive drive ring to be in contact with a user’s finger in order to work.

To create a full-face display for the iPhone, Apple would need to either fully integrate or remove this drive ring from the cover glass.

Earlier this week, Mac Rumors reported on rumors that Apple will replace the iPhone’s Touch ID feature for either an iris scanner or facial recognition software, citing sources and patents.

The patent application also details other advanced features, such as touch detection and determining the surface profile of a target (fingerprint recognition).

It remains to be seen whether Apple will integrate the micro-LED technology into the iPhone 8 or another future product, however, the company is expected to unveil details in the months leading up to its September release.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.